Saturday 23 February 2019

European President asks if there is a 'special place in hell' for those who promoted Brexit without a plan

  • 'There's a special place in hell for Brexiteers without a plan' - Donald Tusk
  • Varadkar caught on mic telling Tusk that he will get 'terrible trouble' from the British press for his remarks
  • Tusk used pointed speech to demand May brings 'realistic suggestions' for how to end the impasse
  • May is due in Brussels tomorrow to discuss her ‘alternative arrangements’ to the backstop
EU Council President Donald Tusk and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar gesture as they give statements after a meeting at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 6, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
EU Council President Donald Tusk and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar gesture as they give statements after a meeting at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 6, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
European Council President Donald Tusk . Picture: AP
EU Council President Donald Tusk and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar shake hands as the they give statements after a meeting at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 6, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was caught on microphone telling European Council President Donald Tusk that he will get "terrible trouble" from the press for his strong remarks on Brexit on Wednesday

Immediately beforehand, Mr Tusk had asked if there is a "special place in hell for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan".

The pointed remarks from Mr Tusk came after the Taoiseach arrived in Brussels for talks with EU leaders to discuss preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Tusk reiterated that the EU will not be offering the United Kingdom any concession on the so-called backstop.

The EU chief took an extremely hard line against the UK political system, saying there is “no effective leadership” for the Remain side of the debate.

Read more: 'Alternative arrangements' can never replace the backstop, Juncker warns May ahead of her trips to Brussels and Dublin

And he demanded that British Prime Minister Theresa May bring “realistic suggestions” for how to end the impasse and prevent a no-deal scenario.

"I've been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely," Mr Tusk said at the joint news conference with Mr Varadkar.

EU Council President Donald Tusk and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar gesture as they give statements after a meeting at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 6, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
EU Council President Donald Tusk and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar gesture as they give statements after a meeting at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 6, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

After the two leaders finished their statements, Mr Varadkar and Mr Tusk shook hands, with the Taoiseach caught on microphone telling Mr Tusk he will get in "terrible trouble from the British press".

Mr Tusk laughed and replied: "I know."

EU Council President Donald Tusk and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar shake hands as the they give statements after a meeting at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 6, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
EU Council President Donald Tusk and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar shake hands as the they give statements after a meeting at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 6, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

A clip showing the exchange was viewed over 43,000 times within 40 minutes of being posted on Twitter.

The remark by Mr Tusk about a special place in hell angered Brexit supporters in Britain.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar talks to European Council President Donald Tusk during their meeting at the Europa building in Brussels, Belgium, February 6, 2019. Francisco Seco/Pool via REUTERS
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar talks to European Council President Donald Tusk during their meeting at the Europa building in Brussels, Belgium, February 6, 2019. Francisco Seco/Pool via REUTERS

Veteran Brexiteer Nigel Farage retorted: "After Brexit we will be free of unelected, arrogant bullies like you - sounds like heaven to me."

Pro-Brexit Conservative lawmaker Peter Bone said Tusk's comments were an outrageous insult to the British people

Mrs May is due in Brussels tomorrow to discuss her ‘alternative arrangements’ to the backstop.

Her trip will come a day after a whistlestop tour of the EU capital by Mr Varadkar that includes a meeting later today with European Parliament president Jean Claude Juncker.

The Taoiseach plans to thank EU bosses for their solidarity on Brexit and also lobby for emergency aid in the event that the UK crashes out on March 29.

In a statement to the media after their meeting, Mr Tusk said: “Our most important task is to prevent a no-deal scenario.”

He reiterated that the EU’s “top priority” is the border on the island of Ireland and maintaining the peace process.

“We will not gamble with peace or put a sell-by date on reconciliation. This is why we insist on the backstop.”

There was some surprise when Mr Tusk finished by saying: “I’ve been wondering what that special place in hell looks like for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely.”

Mr Varadkar was more timid in his remarks, but said events in Westminster over recent weeks “demonstrate exactly why we need a legal guarantee” that a hard border cannot emerge.

He said other EU members had offered “unwavering commitment to protecting hard won peace and stability”.

The Taoiseach said the solidarity shown by the EU “resonates deeply” in Ireland and across all smaller EU countries.

But DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said: "Donald Tusk once again shows his contempt for the 17.4 million people who voted to escape the corruption of the EU and seek the paradise of a free and prosperous kingdom.

"It is Tusk and his arrogant EU negotiators who have fanned the flames of fear in an attempt to try and overturn the result of the referendum."

Ahead of her own trip to Brussels, Mrs May is today engaged in a round of meetings with political leaders in Northern Ireland.

She is holding talks with the five main parties at Stormont House.

The North has been in a political limbo land since January 2017, with senior civil servants running public services.

Yesterday, Mrs May suggested she is seeking "changes" to the backstop in her Brexit deal, rather than its total removal from the Withdrawal Agreement.

She spoke of an "unshakeable" commitment to avoiding a hard border in Ireland after Brexit, pledging: "The UK Government will not let that happen. I will not let that happen."

But asked how she could convince the people of Northern Ireland to accept a Brexit deal which was stripped of the backstop, Mrs May said: "I'm not proposing to persuade people to accept a deal that doesn't contain that insurance policy for the future.

"What Parliament has said is that they believe there should be changes made to the backstop."

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